Thinking ‘Outside the Box’ with Biodegradable Coolers


What we buy matters

In 2013, Fairview reviewed purchasing habits for environmentally preferable purchasing opportunities. In the past, Fairview Pharmacy Services had been delivering medications to patients in StyrofoamTM  coolers—about 44,000 each year. Because most recyclers don’t accept Styrofoam, the majority of those coolers ended up in landfills, where they take hundreds of years to break down.

To eliminate Styrofoam from the shipping process, we partnered with StarchTech Inc., an eco-friendly packaging company in Golden Valley, to source a product made from cornstarch. The new coolers are comprised of six panels that are easy to recycle. Most importantly, these new coolers are a safe and sustainable solution for shipping temperature-sensitive materials.

Our Pharmacy Services employs adults with developmental disabilities from a local nonprofit organization to assemble the coolers, providing valuable green jobs for the community.

Where are we today?

Since we started using the biodegradable coolers two years ago, we have seen an improvement in satisfaction from our customers. Patients no longer need to worry about how to dispose of their coolers. In addition, as our Pharmacy Services continues to grow, so does the number of coolers. We now ship nearly 70,000 coolers a year.

By making this simple change in product, we’re making a significant investment in our community and planet, while benefiting our patients.

Learn more about our sustainability efforts: 

How We’re Engaging The Community Through Community Health Workers

Fairview Southdale Hospital’s 2012 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) identified a unique challenge—how to better engage with and treat the community’s growing Latino population.

Fortunately, Community Health had an equally unique solution—Employ the services of a community health worker (CHW).

“We knew we needed someone who could build relations with community members, speak their language, meet them where they were at and provide educational opportunities—we needed a community health worker,” says Alissa LeRoux Smith, manager of Community Health and Volunteer Services at Fairview Southdale Hospital

Utilizing a frontline health professional

As frontline public health workers, CHWs are becoming an increasingly important part of the health care landscape. Typically, coming from the communities they serve, CHWs can help to bridge cultural and linguistic barriers, expand access to coverage and care and improve overall health outcomes.

Francisco Ramirez, community health worker, was hired in May 2013 to begin making inroads into the Latino community. 

Having worked as a doctor in Mexico before moving to the United States in 2004, Francisco was familiar with the need for health education and eager to be part of the solution.

Cultivating a teaching tool

He began his work with a community garden at Assumption Church—home to a 2,000-member congregation, 90 percent of whom are Latino.

Francisco Ramirez, community health worker.

Francisco Ramirez, community health worker.

As the group worked to build something together—dividing out garden plots, strategizing plant placement and digging in the dirt—they also learned about nutrition and the many benefits the healthy foods they were growing. 

“Sixty-five percent of Assumption’s congregation is diabetic or pre-diabetic,” says Francisco. “But they didn’t understand the connection between how they ate and how they felt. “Our garden provided the perfect launching pad for conversation.”

Expanding the reach

Much like his garden, Francisco’s work quickly grew. Recognizing and swiftly responding to additional community needs, Francisco soon added health classes for seniors, nutritional summer camps for kids and topical seminars. 

By the end of 2014, he had facilitated more than 30 community classes across nine sites and reached more than 500 participants. 

“We are so pleased with the outcomes of our CHW experiment,” says Alissa. “Francisco was able to build trust with community members of all ages and backgrounds.”

In 2015, thanks to a Fairview Foundation Greatest Needs Fund grant, Community Health will explore and plan for the expansion of the CHW role across Fairview.

“We are really interested in exploring what more we can accomplish with CHWs,” says Alissa.

Click here to learn more about how we’re improving the health of our communities or to support the work of community health.

Making It Work: How Fairview Helps Sue be An Amazing Employee

Sue Maus at Desk

Sue Maus, Fairview Health Service Employee

Sue Maus is so much more than her wheelchair. She is a dynamic, talented 30-year Fairview Health Services employee who is valued for her expertise and passion. And that, according to Sue, is exactly how she is treated at Fairview.

Sue began her career here in 1985 at the Oxboro Clinic in Bloomington, eventually becoming a business analyst in IT, then a solutions strategist on the same team. But things changed in July 2000, when Sue was involved in a massive car accident, resulting in her paralysis. After more than 13 months, she recovered limited use of her arms and was able to use a powered wheelchair.

She was ready to come back to work—and she knew her workplace would support her.“I was never worried about it,” she says. “I knew what Fairview’s values are: If you have something to contribute and there’s a role that fits, you’re a part of the team. “I knew Fairview was committed to helping me return to work, whatever that meant.”

‘I follow her lead’

Beth Gohdes, Sue’s manager, says Fairview was more than happy to accommodate Sue to retain her as a passionate, outstanding employee. “We took our cues from Sue and her drive to get back to work. I mostly just follow her lead!” Beth says. “She talks about people she knows who really have a different perspective and attitude on their disabilities—more of an, ‘I give up, I’m so limited’ attitude, but she never believed that, so why on Earth would we believe that?”

Support from equipment to people

Multiple steps were taken to ensure Sue has the right equipment, training and support to continue being a high-functioning employee. Her desk space has elevated surfaces to accommodate the height of her wheelchair.

She uses the Dragon Naturally Speaking program to vocally type and control her computer, and she types and controls her special rollerball mouse with a mouth stick. (“I can type faster than my husband!” she says.) Also, knee-high “kick bars” were installed where she works, which Sue can bump with her wheelchair to automatically open the doors. The building has “hot and cold spots,” and regulating body temperature is difficult for people with paralysis. So, during a recent cold snap, the building manager worked with Sue to figure out how to keep her cubicle area warmer.  “None of the accommodations we made were in vain—she uses every one of them every day,” Beth says.

And her team has supported her. “Our team happy hours are planned a little more carefully now. We don’t go to people’s houses; we go to places that are accessible, and they’re planned for a time when she can get there,” Beth says. “She works from home whenever she needs to. She has such a great personality, it’s not a problem for her to be mostly on the phone but, for things that we agree are really important, we figure out a way to get her there in person. She’s an amazing, upbeat person, so we work with her.”

‘Everybody is dealing with something’

Sue says the most valuable assistance she receives is fellowship with her co-workers.“In meetings, people share their handouts with me and flip them so I can follow along,” she says. “If I need a cup of coffee and someone’s headed in that direction, they’ll grab it for me.  If they hear a loud noise from my cube, they’ll come running.” She adds, “I am so honored to work with so many big-hearted, hard-working, ethical people who, at the end of the day, just want to make Fairview better. I have so many friends around the organization, it’s amazing.

”Sue is determined to keep a positive attitude about her paralysis, and says Fairview’s core values help keep her focused at work and at home. “I’m not a different person than I was before; I’m really not, and I think people have discovered that,” she says.“One positive outcome is knowing how quickly life can change gives you a perspective on what really matters. Things that intimidated you before really don’t anymore.”She adds, “It’s freeing to know that everybody is dealing with something. Mine’s just more visible.”

Interested in a career at Fairview? Search and apply here:

Arlene’s ‘Life Is Back,’ Thanks To Surgery To Control Her Hand Tremors

Arlene Mammen now has better control of her hand tremors, thanks to deep brain stimulation surgery at Fairview Southdale Hospital

Arlene Mammen now has better control of her hand tremors, thanks to deep brain stimulation surgery at Fairview Southdale Hospital

“You don’t realize, when you have two able hands, what tremors will do,” says Arlene Mammen.

The 69-year-old had suffered for years with a condition called essential tremor, that caused her to lose control of her hands. Her quality of life plummeted.

‘I couldn’t do anything’

“I couldn’t do anything. I can’t tell you how many times I burned myself with coffee,” she says.

“I couldn’t get my key in the lock to secure my doors when I left home. I couldn’t swipe my debit card. People, sometimes strangers, helped me with everything.”

Medications improved her hand function for a while but, just after she retired, she noticed a change.

Her neurologist recommended surgery, and she met Paul Gigante, MD, neurosurgeon at Fairview Southdale Hospital.

Deep Brain Stimulation

Paul Gigante, MD

Paul Gigante, MD

Paul and Arlene decided to proceed with deep brain stimulation surgery—an option for patients who have not improved with medications.

During the first procedure, Paul placed a tiny electrode in her brain and, in a later surgery, he placed a battery pack in her chest, which would stop the tremors in her dominant right hand.

She was awake for part of the first surgery so the surgeon could see if the electrode was controlling her tremor.

“I was scared, but I can’t say enough about Dr. Gigante and the team,” says Arlene.

During the first surgery, Paul asked Arlene to draw a circle and write her name.

“Her hand was out of control and the writing indecipherable but, when I turned on the probe, she drew a perfect circle and wrote her name in cursive,” he says. “It was beautiful.”

‘My life is back’

Arlene is grateful to her entire care team. She says nurses from her first surgery stopped to greet her when she came for the second and visited her as she recovered.

“I was almost homebound, and now I can travel again. I can dog-sit for my son’s family in Arizona. My life is back. How do you thank someone for that?”

The Fairview Spine and Brain Clinic offers comprehensive, surgical spine care for chronic neck, back and limb pain.

Using advanced technology, we are able to monitor patients neurological function while operating. Treatments include removing brain tumors, addressing trigeminal neuralgia and using deep brain stimulation.

Gifts In Action: Lifeline Fund Helps Bring Peace Of Mind

Lifeline (2)

The phrase, “taking your work home with you,” took on new meaning for Deb Valley, Lifeline Program manager at Fairview Health Services, when her family found themselves in need of the service she had been dedicated to for more than 20 years.

It began when she received a phone call no one wants to get: Her mother, Pauline Watkins, then 88, had fallen on the bathroom floor and had been unable to get up to call for help.

“When she told me about her experience, it broke my heart,” says Deb. “I live more than 100 miles away from her and can’t check on her daily, but I knew she needed help.”

A Lifeline lifesaver

Fortunately, after 22 years as an employee of the Fairview Lifeline Division, Deb knew just where to turn.

Fairview’s Lifeline program offers a round-the-clock response center. People who have fallen or have a medical emergency simply press a button and talk with someone who can offer immediate help at that critical moment.

Not only are Lifeline devices waterproof and easy to wear, some devices also offer fall detection capabilities that instantly call for help at the first sign of trouble.

Deb’s mother was enrolled and received a personal response device.

“It is so great to be able to provide my mom with a button that she can press any time she needs help,” says Deb.

Your dollars make the difference

Started in 1982 with just 10 subscribers, Lifeline now serves more than 3,500 individuals in the seven-county metro area. The subscription-based service is available to those who need it, starting at $39 a month.

However, thanks to donors, $10 monthly subsidies also are offered through a Fairview Foundation assistance program.

“For those on a fixed income, bringing the cost down to $29 a month is a lifesaver,” says Deb.

“It can mean they are able to afford groceries—a gallon of milk, eggs and bread. It can mean they keep their monthly subscription to the newspaper—something that allows them to connect to the outside world.

“I love knowing that, by supporting this program, we’re making sure patients don’t have to choose between being safe and having their basic needs met.”

To learn more about Lifeline, call 952-885-6185. For more information about the various funds to which you can contribute, visit the Fairview Foundation